Alexandra Levit tells us the secrets of getting a job in a slow economy, how to successfully make a career change, and the new things we will see in the workplace during the next ten years
Alexandra Levit is THE go to person when you need to assess the pulse of the current work industry. She is well known in the business world for her intelligent analysis on a number of business related topics. Alexandra is a frequent advisor to upper management and top executives at fortune 500 companies looking to better integrate the newest generation of workers and how to resolve intergenerational issues in the workplace. Her career advice is syndicated in the Wall Street Journal and has appeared in nearly all media major outlets including the New York Times, USA Today, National Public Radio, and Fox News.
Alexandra makes it her job to get you the job you want and make sure you succeed in your career. She regularly speaks to the millennial generation, the twenty-something age group, on important issues they need to master in order to be successful at job hunting and building their career. She is the bestselling author of several books including They Don’t Teach Corporate in College: A Twenty-Something’s Guide to the Business World, How’d You Score That Gig?: A Guide to the Coolest Jobs-and How to Get Them, Success for Hire: Simple Strategies to Find and Keep Outstanding Employees, #MILLENNIALtweet: Bite-Sized Ideas for Managing the Millennials, and New Job, New You: A Guide to Reinventing Yourself in a Bright New Career ; a guide for successful career change. Her next book is on the top myths of business success and will be released in 2011.
She took time out of her busy schedule as a mother, spokesperson, advisor, and author to give us a few secrets on job searching, marketing yourself, and advancing your career.
Interview with Alexandra Levit
Q. You’ve done a great job creating your own brand and getting companies to desire your skills. How have you done that and what can others do to market themselves successfully to employers? How can they continue to do this during the interview process without becoming overbearing?
A. It’s a gradual process of deciding on the unique combination of skills and experiences that make you competitive, and tweaking it over time as your career evolves. Job seekers can do this by taking the time to think about what the company in question is looking for, and how the results they’ve achieved in previous positions (paid or otherwise) will help the company get where it’s trying to go.
Q. What’s the biggest change we will see in the business world in the next 10 years?
A. The biggest change is that the individual career will be continuously evolving. Twenty-first century employees are not content to view a job as a paycheck. On the eve of economic recovery, more than half of employees say they’re planning a career change in order to pursue more meaningful work. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the average young American will have about 9 jobs between the ages of 18 and 32, and between 5.3 million and 8.4 million people ages 44 to 70 already are involved in “second act” careers.
Q. Should someone attempt a career change during a slow economy? What can a person do to help with the transition?
A. Yes, they should. The key is to ease into a new career one foot at a time. Perhaps this means earning a paycheck at your current job while doing a part-time internship in your new field or taking an adult education class or workshop on the weekend. The only way to find out if you’re passionate about something is to try it – ideally with as little risk as you can manage.
Q. What do you tell someone who has no business network and no experience and is trying to find a job? How do these people make themselves stand out and get their foot in the door?
A. You need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience. This classic Catch 22 may have you spending months trying to convince someone to take a chance and hire them. Fortunately, by producing an irresistible resume, you can emphasize the experience you do have. Employers like numbers and statistics – hard facts that show how a candidate was directly responsible for making a company more profitable. Now when you’re new to a field, you probably haven’t had the opportunity to own projects in organizations you’ve worked for or interned with. However, the chances are excellent that you’ve had some measurable impact along the way. Before sending out your resume, consider how you can position mundane tidbits of experience to become the very items that peak a potential employer’s interest.
Q. What can employees do to successfully make the jump from worker bee to manager?
A. Talk to managers or senior mentors about how they made the transition. Review job descriptions at the managerial level to assess the skills and experiences you are missing, and then actively set goals with your boss to master them.
Q. Will Millennials change the workplace for the better, or will it continue to be business as usual?
A. Due to demographic shifts, Millennials will become leaders at a younger age, and they will bring their efficiency, innovation, multi-tasking ability, and impatience with bureaucracy with them. Their emphasis on social responsibility and global collaboration will definitely result in some promising workplace developments.
Q. What advice would you give someone who has been unemployed for over a year? How do they get their career back on track during slow economic times?
A. Revisit your approach. The old way of applying to 100 open positions on online job boards doesn’t work anymore. Go on LinkedIn.com and identify individuals who are currently working at organizations you’re interested in. Ask politely for a 20-30 minute informational interview in which you can learn more about their career path and how they got to where they are. Then, be sure to follow up and think about how you can help your new contact in return. Build intimate, one-on-one relationships a little at a time, and you may find that you are considered top of mind when someone in your network comes across a viable job opportunity.
Q. How can someone talk to their manager about modern office practices to help with work-life balance such as flextime?
A. In making an argument for flextime or telecommuting, prepare a written proposal that puts the company first and addresses, upfront, the issues you know your boss will be concerned about. For example, if you want to work from home one day per week, tell your boss that you plan to get more work done in less time due to the minimization of distractions and not having to commute. Explain how your home office will be set up and assure your manager that you will have a clean, quiet, child-free and supply-enabled work environment in which to complete your duties. Ask for a trial of the new arrangement, and prove the cost-savings by working much more efficiently on that home day than you do during your in-office days. Once you have the green light, make sure that you are always accessible via e-mail/PDA and cell phone during the business day, and report project status often so it’s easy for your boss to keep tabs on you.
Q. What skills are most prized in today’s job market?
A. Anything transferable – meaning the skill is relevant across a wide variety of fields. Things like project management, client relations, sales, computer programming, and financial management. The ability to communicate effectively and solve core business problems are also invaluable.
Q. What one piece of advice would you give to workers to be more successful at their jobs?
A. Understand that perception is reality and that creating and sustaining an effective professional persona – or the mature, professional and competent face you project to the work world – is more important than anything else you can do on the job.
Q. What are you working on now? What is your next project?
A. I am the host of the new, free 90 minute online course, JobSTART 101 (www.jobstart101.org), which provides the real-world knowledge and training college students and recent graduates need to be successful in the work world.
Learn more about corporate adviser and speaker Alexandra Levit here.